I received the following question:

When Paul first turns to the Gentiles in Acts 13:46, is he really turning to the Greek Jews and then to the true Gentiles?  I’m having a hard time putting the sequence together.

I think you are thinking of the word “first” in this verse as meaning in “first in order.” I believe that “first” here means “first” primarily. The Jew had the advantage over the Greek in receiving the gospel, since he had the Scriptures and knew what they said, whereas the Greeks among the Israelites had given Them up, and the Gentile Greeks had never really had them in the first place. The Jew was already seeking to be faithful to God, and so believing in the Messiah was only a logical next step. The Greek, however, did not follow the Scriptures, and so usually had little knowledge of them. The Greek Israelite had given up on his Israelite heritage, and so was no longer waiting or caring about the Messiah coming. He was no longer looking to God, so for him to be interested in the message of Jesus Christ would require a change of heart. The gospel message gave him an easy way back to God, if he wished to take it, yet a Greek was less likely to believe the gospel than a Jew, simply because his outlook on things was not prepared for it or looking for it. Thus the gospel was primarily to the Jew because he was the one waiting for it, hoping for a Messiah Who would come to save.

It would be like if I would write a letter about some of the great things I am learning from the Bible, and would send it to all my cousins. All of them could read it and benefit from it, yet it is obvious that there are some of them whom it would primarily be for, as others of my cousins would not really be interested. If one of them was affected by what I wrote and turned around because of it, he could actually benefit far more from that letter than one who was already interested in God ever would. Yet such a thing would not be very likely. I think that is why the gospel was to the Jew first.

The Israelites were given the message first, then, when some rejected, Paul could turn to the Gentiles. I do not think that the Greeks really figured into this at all, as far as order. The Greeks among the Israelites could have heard when Paul made the first offer to Jews, or later after he had turned to Gentiles.

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